The Parson Red Heads - Biography
The self-proclaimed “reigning kinds of the feel-good beardrock movement,” The Parson Red Heads are a Los Angeles-based indie folk collective that sometimes swells to more than a dozen members on stage. The core members of Evan Way (vocals/guitar), wife Brette Marie Way (drums/vocals), Sam Fowles (guitar/vocals), Aaron Ballard (guitar/melodica/vocals) and Andy Creighton (bass/vocals) have earned a cult following for their celebratory psychedelic country shows dressed esoiterically in white costumes, becoming staples at hipster East Hollywood haunts like Spaceland, the Silver Lake Lounge and The Echo. With a subdued nature and engaging camaraderie shooting positive vibes in all directions, the band’s transferrable ideology seems to be this: It’s possible and even commendable to be artistic anti-assholes.
The Parson Red Heads have also appeared on KCRW’s much revered radio program, “Morning Becomes Eclectic,” which helped further fuel their tambourine-rattled Topanga Canyon circa-1968 vibe. They have released a one full-length album, a pair of acclaimed EPs and a 7” single, “Orangufang.” With several of their tracks reaching college radio stations across the country, they have toured North America with the likes of childhood friends Blitzen Trapper, Earlimart and Everest.
Having met at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon, the band relocated to Southern California in the summer of 2005. Evan Way and his sister Erin Way, along with wife Brette Marie (whom they taught drums to), longtime friends Charlie Hester and Sam Fowles (from Green Bay, Wisconsin) brought an organic, almost communal folk act that—with hand claps, tambourines and four-part harmonies, in striking white wardrobes—caught on with the Silver Lake scene immediately. The roster is ever shifting, but while performing in earlier iterations (which involved Raymond Richards on pedal steel and Aaron Ballard on guitar), the band shared a stage with Maria Taylor, Cold War Kids and Cursive, among others. Their stage shows had a warm intimacy, and cameo appearances by other local musicians and “family” members made a typical night a celebration of love and harmony.
PRH recorded their first EP—Field Mouse Carnival (2006)—which brought the Laurel Canyon acoustic set back to life; but it was their debut album in 2007, King Giraffe (Yukon Records), that captured the magic of their live show. With Evan Way’s evocative voice—falling somewhere between Paul Simon and The Byrds’ Roger McGuinn—the songs were like the California folk pop from back in the days of those acts. Comparisons ranged between the Flying Burrito Brothers to Fairport Convention to more contemporary artists like Beachwood Sparks. Spaceland Presents also recorded a live set from a late-2006 performance, The Parson Red Heads at The Echo (2007 Kufala), which captured the songs “Punctual as Usual” and “Days of my Youth” in their uplifting full energy.
Up until that time The Parson Red Heads had been a regional act, primarily playing Los Angeles venues. But with the release of the EP Owl & Timber (2008 Parson Farm Records)—which diversified the band’s sound with drone elements, jazz instrumentals, and grass-roots porch moments—PRH took to the road with the likes of Earlimart and Blitzen Trapper. The standout track was the Sam Fowles-penned ditty, “Don’t Hold Back,” which featured a neighbor’s dog audibly barking in the mix.
The group then followed that up with a three-song vinyl release, “Orangufang,” which was recorded at Red Rockets Glare studio in Rancho Park and mastered by Raymond Richards. The songs were a bit of a return to the more acoustic-driven songs of Field Mouse Carnival, like the sunshine pop track, “You Can Leave It,” which is one of the band’s shining moments live.
The Parson Red Heads played a show at Amoeba Hollywood in September 2008, and in the summer of 2010 the band relocated back to Portland, Oregon.